Another part of the LICH Saga, sidebar to our recent story.
In October 2010, Cliff Stromberg was commissioned by Chancellor, Nancy Zimpher to evaluate the Research Foundation of four Health Science Centers in the SUNY system. Cliff Stromberg works for a legal firm in D.C. called Hogan Lovells. His bio on their website says “For several years, he held an appointment as adjunct associate professor at The George Washington University Medical School.”
Hogan Lovells is a law firm that represents health and medical facilities. SUNY signed a $10 million contract with them in 2009 for legal health services. Hogan Lovells helped with the handoff between Continuum and SUNY in 2011.
In late 2010, Chancellor Zimpher commissioned Cliff Stromberg from Hogan Lovells to investigate the research funds of the entire SUNY system. He worked on the report from October 2010 until February 2011, before turning it over to Zimpher.
The Stromberg Report was released to Zimpher and the Board of Trustees in May 2011. On June 3, 2011, The Times Union published an article called “SUNY top leader out after scathing report,” announcing that Vice Chancellor John O’Connor was resigning because “[the] report criticized his autocratic and uncommunicative leadership” with SUNY and the Research Foundation (RF). He had worked with SUNY for 15 years.
Meanwhile, Williams who had been on sabbatical from GWU for the entirety of 2011, took a job with Verras Healthcare International in May 2012, just before LaRosa’s resignation. If Williams and Stromberg were well-acquainted from GWU, it makes perfect sense that Williams would know the results of the evaluation before May, and set himself up to be in the proper place when the other shoe fell.
On June 12, 2012, La Rosa, who was interviewed for the “scathing report” also resigned after 13 years.
Stromberg wrote the report that ultimately led to the immediate resignation of O’Connor, and eventually the resignation of LaRosa. During the time between the two resignations, Governor Cuomo also appointed McCall as the Chair of the Board of Trustees.
McCall had previously been on the board and Carl Hayden was the chair. Hayden resigned from the board before his term expired because he didn’t want to be on the board after basically being demoted by Cuomo. The stage was set for Williams to come in and argue the acquisition had been a mistake, and LICH needed to be sold off to preserve the medical center.
At the Legislative session to discuss the Sustainability plan earlier this year, McCall and Zimpher both denied being involved with SUNY during the takeover. However, Zimpher was appointed chancellor in early 2009, and although McCall was not yet the Chair, he was already serving as a trustee.
By replacing all of the heads of Downstate relevant to LICH, SUNY seems intent on reversing the commitment they made to keep LICH as a full-service hospital because the decision to acquire LICH was made by people no longer with the university. But with all of the pieces in place, it appears that destroying LICH was part of the plan from the initial acquisition.
At the November 14, 2012 Academic Medical Centers and Hospital Committee Board of Trustees meeting, Stromberg advised the board on a number of solutions. According to the meeting’s minutes, Stromberg advised, “If you want to sell assets, than you should hire an investment banker. Otherwise, to save Downstate you hire a consultant like David Pitts.” Enter Pitts Management.
Pitts Management entered into LICH in early 2013 under the guise of moving LICH into a sustainable operation after SUNY dropped their formal closure plan with the Department of Health.
However, as Downstate continued to take measures to close the hospital, Pitts Management enacted their orders by refusing to admit patients, diverting all ambulance services and maintaining dozens of armed guards throughout and surrounding the LICH campus.
Stromberg also said SUNY should start thinking about which assets they could sell to get out of their financial hole; Zimpher said they had already assessed their assets. LICH was not specifically mentioned. However, SUNY Downstate had already appraised the real estate assets of LICH’s 18 remaining buildings. “These options were presented to the leadership of the academic medical centers and that some of the narrowing of options had occurred,” the chancellor said.
Hogan Lovells stayed mostly in the background of the closure plans until Judge Demarest reversed her ruling of 2011 to united LICH with SUNY Downstate. Because they were involved in the original merger, Hogan was pulled into the court proceedings, and has now joined SUNY’s legal team.